Situated in Australia’s Limestone Coast region, Wattle Range Council is a local government organisation dedicated to serving its community. The region the council looks after produces a huge array of products for local and export markets and is home to major tourist attractions, large industry and significant future-focused ventures and developments including the Lake Bonney and Canunda Wind Farm. 

The council team was facing challenges with its legacy systems and a real need for data-driven decision-making to help better serve its community. 

Wattle Range Council embarked on a transformative journey, led by CEO Ben Gower, to modernise its financial management processes and leverage data for better actionable insights. To help achieve those outcomes the council made the decision to implement Datascape Financials, complemented by Power BI for analytics. 

“I wanted a brand new system that I could mine data out of to tell me what was happening across the organisation. We went through a tender process and we selected Datacom,” says CEO Ben Gower.   

Before the implementation of Datascape Financials and Power BI, Wattle Range Council encountered several challenges in its financial management processes. The legacy system, Synergysoft, proved difficult to extract meaningful data from, hindering the council's ability to understand and improve its operations. Additionally, a reputation for late bill payments posed a significant challenge, impacting relationships with both suppliers and the community. 
"Everyone interacts with local government. It's their local council that they touch base with every day. We're emptying their rubbish bins, we're fixing potholes, we're registering their dogs. The community is transacting with us every day, and if we build a reputation for not doing something very well, everything else we do in the community gets tarnished with that reputation. For us, it was about bill payments. We had a long-standing reputation within the community of paying our bills late and needed the right data to make a meaningful change.” 

Wattle Range Council successfully implemented Datascape Financials, Property & Rating, and Datapay Payroll modules. The adoption of Datascape Financials and Power BI resulted in a profound transformation of the council's financial management processes. The implementation empowered the council to extract, analyse, and visualise data more effectively. The insights gained from Datascape and Power BI allowed the council to address procedural inefficiencies, particularly in accounts payable.

Data on the adoption of Datascape Financials and Power BI on the council's financial management processes
The adoption of Datascape Financials and Power BI resulted in a profound transformation of the council's financial management processes – the implementation empowered the council to extract, analyse, and visualise data more effectively.

Removing unnecessary bottlenecks resulted in a substantial reduction in processing time, leading to timely payments and improved supplier relationships. 

Historical data also revealed opportunities for optimisation and justified the addition of a second staff member, resulting in reduced turnaround times in processing invoices. 
“What the system is going to do is get rid of the grunt work with the double, sometimes even triple handling of data and manual rework. This will allow teams to think and work at a higher level. They will be informed by the data – they won’t just be keying things in anymore. It’s going to increase productivity, innovation, and efficiency." 

Real-time visibility of data a foundation for transparency and trust

Dashboards created using Power BI provided real-time visibility into financial data, empowering the council to respond promptly to inquiries from the council chamber. The transparency helped build trust with the community and manage relationships effectively. 
"I can now receive questions from the chamber while we're in the room, and actually open up a dashboard in real-time, click a few buttons, and within seconds I've got an answer for them." 

The visual representation of data played a crucial role in overcoming resistance to change among staff. The council successfully instilled a data-driven culture, fostering a better understanding of processes and encouraging adaptability to new systems. 

Through open communication supported by data, the council built and strengthened trust within the community. Transparent reporting on financial matters, including challenges faced during system transitions, helped manage public perception effectively.

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The increased transparency between the council and its community is helping to build trust and manage public perception.

"It's the real-time dashboards and the analytics that help you dig data out in a meaningful way. Being able to explain what's going on through factually based, data-driven results makes it so much easier to educate your team on what's going on, and particularly in building trust with your chamber." 

The council used data analytics to optimise resource allocation for capital projects. By connecting disparate systems and comparing data from Datascape and SharePoint, Wattle Range achieved a comprehensive view of project statuses, encouraging more efficient decision-making.

Using data to make the case for legislative change

Data-driven insights were also instrumental in advocating for legislative change. The council used evidence-based arguments to demonstrate the impact of outdated legislation on council rates, leading to engagement with state politicians and potential legislative adjustments. 

“About 20% of our council landmass is under plantation forests. Last year, primary production land went up in value by 49%, with a cumulative valuation growth of approximately 145% over the last five years. We went to the Valuer-General with the data that we’re now able to extract. We were able to model the impact, show her the challenge, and in turn she was able to see all the relevant data and agreed to value forestry differently. We had to look at the data first to understand the nature of the problem, then we could explain it to her in a meaningful way." 

Wattle Range Council's journey with Datascape Financials and Power BI shows the transformative power of modern SaaS solutions in local government. The integration of these tools not only addressed operational challenges but also fostered a data-driven culture, leading to improved efficiency, transparency, and community trust. 
They are currently in the final stages of implementing Customer Relationship Management (CRM), as well as Regulatory & Compliance, which will enable an uplift in their engagement with the community and their regulatory responsibilities.

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